Marcelinho, Jhingan lead ESPN's ISL Team of the tournament
The 2016 ISL is over and it's time to look back at the best players of the tournament. Some were obvious choices and some just about made it into the team. Fielding a 4-3-3 formation, here is ESPN's ISL 2016 Team of the tournament.
GK - Amrinder Singh - Mumbai City FC
Matches: 6 | Clean sheets: 5
Amrinder came into the tournament late after his AFC Cup exploits with Bengaluru FC, but once he became Mumbai's first choice, he kept five clean sheets out of the six games that he played. With a miserly defence in front of him, Amrinder and co. conceded the least number of goals (8) in the league stage. Authoritative at set-pieces and a good communicator at the back, the 27-year old displayed a fine balance of calm and confidence.
RB - Sandesh Jhingan - Kerala Blasters
Matches: 17 | Clean sheets: 5
Jhinghan, a center back by choice, shifted to the right back position effortlessly after the arrival of Aaron Hughes at the center of Kerala's defence. Goal-line clearances, flying tackles and important blocks were always his forte, but this season he showed plenty of concentration after a dismal season with Kerala in 2015. Although he didn't provide the variety in attack while on the right, Jhinghan was clearly Kerala's most consistent defender and instrumental to their run to the final.
CB - Lucian Goian - Mumbai City FC
Matches: 16 | Clean sheets: 9 | Goals: 1 | Recovered balls - 86
His numbers speak for themselves. With the highest number of clean sheets and the highest number of recovered balls, Lucian Goian was the standout defender this season. Playing for the first time in India, Goian was a commanding figure for Mumbai at the back, stamping his authority over the opposition with his towering presence and remarkable success rate in tackling. Goian, along with Krisztian Vadocz played every match for Mumbai and was imperative in the team's best ever finish in the ISL.
CB - Cedric Hengbart - Kerala Blasters
Matches: 17 | Clean sheets: 5 | Assists: 3
Kerala were a hard nut to crack throughout their campaign and Hengbart, just like Goian played every game for Kerala to help them reach their second ISL final. He started the season with an assist and went on to grab two more during the course of the campaign - including one in the crucial win against FC Goa which helped Kerala consolidate their claim for a place in the semifinals. He was the man of the match in the first leg of the semifinals and before his penalty miss in the final, Hengbart had a another solid game at the back, particularly since Kerala had lost Aaron Hughes to injury early on. His campaign may have ended with despair, but Hengbart was the one of the main reasons why Kerala almost lifted their first ISL trophy.
LB - Sena Ralte - Mumbai City FC
Matches: 15 | Clean sheets: 8
Mumbai City FC surprised everyone this season with their fluid attacking football and stern defending, and Sena Ralte was heavily involved at both ends of the pitch. With eight clean sheets (2nd best) to his name, the Mizo full-back enjoyed a breakthrough season. He gave Mumbai that extra man in attack and was a handful to right wingers in defence. Ralte played in 15 out of the 16 games for Mumbai and was a name that manager Alexandre Guimarães couldn't take off his list.
RCM - Javi Lara - Atletico de Kolkata
Matches: 12 | Goals: 3 | Shots on target: 14
Javi Lara kick-started his impressive season with Atletico with a winner against Kerala Blasters in Kochi. Always a threat at set-pieces, the Spaniard wasn't a regular starter as Jose Molina shuffled his pack throughout their victorious campaign, but whenever he played, he was a menace. He had the most number of shots on target for his team and with three man of the match performances - including one in the semifinal - together with three goals, Javi Lara was Atletico's trump card this season.
CM - Borja (C) - Atletico de Kolkata
Matches: 16 | Recovered balls: 64 | Assists - 2
There are many things to say about Atletico's inspirational captain. A force to be reckoned with in central midfield, Borja was focal to ATK's second title in three years. He was a mix of tenacity, composure and heavy-duty performances. He kept the midfield ticking, did all the dirty work and most importantly, the former Real Madrid and Villareal player led the team with authority, just like he did in the first season. Despite being 35, Borja won the fittest player of the season and his industrious displays turned out to be the difference for ATK.
LCM - Florent Malouda - Delhi Dynamos
Matches: 13 | Goals: 3 | Assists: 3
Malouda wasn't at his best this season, but when needed, his experience and prowess in midfield helped Delhi come inches close to their first ISL final. The season didn't start well for him, but as he got used to the players around him, the Frenchman was imposing - best explained in Delhi's fifth home game, when his burst of two goals and two assists helped them beat a Chennaiyin team that had lost only once at that point. Together with Marcelinho and Richard Gadze, Malouda formed Delhi's devastating attacking trio that scored 27 goals this ISL - the highest by any team.
RW - Marcelinho - Delhi Dynamos
Played - 14 | Goals -10 | Assists - 4
Golden boot winner with 10 goals this season, the Brazillian was an instant hit in his maiden ISL campaign. Skillful with his feet and deadly in front of goal, Marcelinho was a delight to watch. Aside from his goals, his assists and link-up play was breathtaking at times. He kept defenders guessing all the time and whenever he had the ball, you knew there was something brewing. Undoubtedly, Marcelo was the shining light in a somewhat dry ISL season, where conservative football took precedence over open, attacking play.
CF - Iain Hume - Atletico de Kolkata
Matches: 12 | Goals: 7
It was difficult to choose Hume over Emiliano Alfaro as the league's best center forward, but owing to his superior goal tally and the impact of his goals, the Canadian was the pick of the two. His goals were all influential ones - he won the game against Delhi, Pune and Mumbai, and scored late to nick a point against Chennaiyin and NorthEast United - helping ATK just about manage to make the semifinals. He was top scorer for the Kerala Blasters in 2014, when they finished runners-up. He finished as top scorer for his team yet again, taking home the winner's medal this time around.
LW - CK Vineeth - Kerala Blasters
Matches: 8 | Goals: 5 | Assists: 1
CK Vineeth's incredible ISL campaign ended in anguish as Kerala fell at the last hurdle. With Kerala Blasters languishing in the bottom half mid-season, Vineeth's return from Bengaluru FC gave more than just hope. His five goals in six starts helped Kerala win four of them, and transformed their season. His arrival coincided with Kerala's rise from the dead, and their surprising run into the final. He finished as the top Indian scorer of the league, but more importantly, he gave hope to the whole of Kochi, and reignited a team that seemed down and out at one stage.
Manager - Gianluca Zambrotta - Delhi Dynamos
Matches: 16 | Wins: 7 | Draws: 5 | Losses: 4
Gianluca Zambrotta took over from Roberto Carlos for the 2016 season and guided Delhi Dynamos FC to the semifinals. Delhi finished third in the league stages and Zambrotta got his team clicking from the very first match. He managed to get the best out of the Indians in the team - Kean Lewis, Milan Singh and Souvik Chakraborty - that gave Marcelinho enough freedom to play his natural game. Delhi almost made it to the finals, but after missing all three penalties in the deciding semifinal shootout, Zambrotta's first stint in India was cut short. The most impressive feature of Zambrotta was his emphasis on attacking football and the Italian rarely fielded anything other than the best side.
Substitutes: Debjit Majumder, Jerrry Lalrinzuala, Kean Lewis, Emiliano Alfaro, Ruben Gonzalez, Kristian Vadocz, Kervens Belfort